by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 3 of
We're three episodes into Radiant now, which means it's about time for a dramatic high point. Seth is on the verge of collapse after defending the townspeople from the Nemesis, but Alma swoops in to help finish the job. Seth awakens in the flying house, bandaged up but still alive and kicking. He and Alma argue over whether or not the villagers are likely to summon the Inquisition, with Seth continuing to insist that there must be some way to show everyone that sorcerers aren't the bad guys. Later that evening, Alma reflects on how she ended up becoming Seth's guardian and mentor. Seth sets out on his own the next morning, determined to find and destroy the source of the Nemesis eggs, but it looks like his powers have already drawn the attention of the government.
The battle against the Nemesis wraps up more or less as expected, with Seth getting a chance to show off his heroic potential before Alma arrives to tie up loose ends. The only real question mark coming off of the previous episode was what would happen to the Bravery Quartet, and apparently their capture is such a foregone conclusion that it doesn't even merit its own scene. That doesn't make for a lot of dramatic tension, but the battle's conclusion does at least give us a little more insight into how sorcerers' abilities work and why Seth might be special. The emphasis on gloves is an interesting detail, and it seems like it may play into the notion of sorcerers needing to lay low and keep quiet about their powers. Time will tell how important this ends up being, but it may explain why Seth (or at least someone matching his description) is already on the Inquisition's radar.
Seth's debate with Alma takes us back through some familiar territory, with neither character changing their position much. The one new piece of information here is the unconfirmed existence of the Nemesis' nest. Given that this nest's name is also the title of the show, I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be real. In any case, this latest argument is mostly used as an excuse for a flashback to Seth and Alma's initial encounter, which brings a couple of unexpected revelations. All the “regular humans are jerks” stuff is par for the course, but I was a little surprised to see that Alma was essentially starting her life over from scratch when she took Seth in, which is a departure from the usual formula of an established mentor taking on a new apprentice. This makes their shared backstory a little more compelling, since neither Seth nor Alma have a full recollection of who they were before they woke up in the hospital. It also earns Alma some extra hero points in my book, since she took care of Seth despite having plenty of her own problems to deal with.
Thanks to that additional context, the parting scene ends up being Radiant's strongest moment to date. There's some genuine emotion on both sides of the equation as Alma and Seth go their separate ways, and I doubt it would have been as compelling if that backstory hadn't been filled in. It's a good sign that the series is starting to put some more weight behind its dramatic punches, as it elevates the story from merely serviceable to legitimately engaging. Taken as a whole, these first three episodes should provide a solid foundation for Radiant to build on. We know the basics of how the world works, our hero has a credible motivation, and now we know the series can tell a simple story effectively.
The next step for Radiant will be expanding its basic setup into something unique. As much as it's managed to refine its narrative delivery over the last couple of weeks, there's still not much to distinguish it from any other competent genre title. Sure, it's enjoyable, but it's not what I'd call memorable just yet. It looks like we might get to meet Seth's main traveling companions next week, which would make that a critical episode for the series. Good chemistry and a balance of personalities will obviously be important, but it'll also be worth keeping an eye on the backgrounds of any new characters and how they play into the show's themes. If Radiant can use its cast to provide a wider variety of perspectives on its world, it'll be a good next step in the growth of the series. For now, the steady improvements in the storytelling are reason enough to be optimistic.
Radiant is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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